Archive for the ‘Questions’ Category

Student Email 2

February 9, 2014

Feb 9 12:52 PM

Comment: A big fan! :)

Hello Joshua,

My name is Jenna Lambert and I am currently in my final year of university studying Graphic Art and Design. Your horror photography has inspired me for my own project ‘Horror-Tales’, which also looks into the psychological fears within children and adults. I have been very fond of your photography work for a while now, I admire your focus on the practical effects within your imagery rather than an all digital format, the results are much more interesting. I would really appreciate it if you could answer a few questions in relation to your work and mine. I understand you are extremely busy, but if you are unable to answer them all, even just a few would be fantastic. Thanks again. :)

Feb 9 1:12 PM

Graduating with a B.A. in English Literature, how did you come to discover an interest in photography?

I love movies.  I was interested in going to film school as a graduate student.  Circumstances didn’t allow for it.  I began taking pictures instead. First with a polaroid camera, but soon with an SLR camera, processing film and making prints in a dark room.  My interest in movies and film making was eventually channeled into my work as a mature photographer.

. You’ve worked along side Nick Vedros, who is involved in commercial and advertising photography, would you say this opportunity helped you grow as a photographer?

Better than photography school.

. My Idea for my ‘Horror-Tales’ project came from my love for theatrical make up and horror films, what inspired you to create your projects?

Many things: horror movies, a love for special effects, my interest in psychology, fairy tales, a desire to do something with my children, etc.

. In an interview with Guardian UK in 2013, you stated, ‘My role as a horror photographer is to show people what they don’t want to see’. Can you elaborate on this?

Horror as an art form is about attraction/repulsion.  I’m not the viewer’s friend.  I’m not taking requests.  I did not come to soothe them.  In the end, I’m out to get them.

. Why do you choose to act out your shoots, using actors rather than using a straight forward digital process?

I don’t know how to do it digitally.  I’m a photographer.

. How long do you spend creating the set, costume and props?


. Your photography shows a wide selection of fears, fear of dark, monsters, the unknown. How do you keep this interesting for the audience?

By keeping it interesting for me.

. I have a fascination with horror, I love being scared! What are you scared of?

Nearly everything.

. You use family and friends in your work, how do they feel about the process, do they take their role seriously?

I treat the work seriously, so they do too.

. My favourite image of yours is ‘Bed’, the props used were amazing! How did you construct the monster hands?

Hands from a Creature Reacher costume purchased 1/2 price the day after Halloween.

. Talking about fears, I’m terrified of zombies, how would you recommend I incorporate this into my own work?

Your choice.  In staged photography, decision is the art.

Like yourself, I am self taught and still learning.  Do you have any advice as a photographer?

Assist or intern with a commercial studio if possible.  Shoot weddings.  Weddings are like photography bootcamp.  There are no shortcuts.  Experience is simply clocking in the man-hours.  Push yourself constantly.  It’s the only way you’ll get better. 

Best of luck on your project, Jenna!


Student Email 1

February 9, 2014

Feb 9 5:13 AM

Comments: Hi!

I am currently writing my dissertation on death and disgust in art, focussing on the artist Joel Peter Witkin. In my research,  I noticed certain similarities or influences to his tableaux work in your photographs, so thought I would ask if he has indeed been an influence to you?


Corinne Smallman

Feb 9 11:36 AM

Thank you for your email Corinne.

I love Witkin!  His work inspired my original interest in photography.  We both frequently deal in dark and disturbing subject matter.  We both also build tableaux scenes for our camera.  However, I feel my work is much more narrative based than Witkin’s (more cinematic), and feel a greater kinship with Cindy Sherman and Gregory Crewdson in this regard.  Witkin is located more in the still life and portrait genres.  I love how he references canonized artwork from the past, and I respond to his delightful willingness to shock and upset the viewer as a kind of manifesto.

Best of luck with your dissertation, Corinne!


p.s. Witkin also has the greatest photographer statement of all time: “I want my photographs to be as powerful as the last thing a person sees or remembers before death.”


Neurobiology of Fear

December 17, 2012

Continued from post What is Horror?

If the Horror genre is best defined by the intention to elicit and manipulate the emotion of fear, what then exactly is the emotion of fear?

The dictionary defines fear as: a feeling of agitation and dread caused by the presence or imminence of danger.

Persons experiencing fear display increased alertness, concentration on the source of fear, attack and fight-or-flight behaviors, and evidence of sympathetic-nerve stimulation such as cardiovascular excitation, superficial vasoconstriction, and dilation of the pupils.

Fear evolved as a basic survival mechanism. It is the ability to recognize danger, which leads to an urge to confront the danger, or flee from it: the fight-or-flight response. This mechanism allows animals to move quickly away from a location of perceived threat and hide.  All people experience fear as an instinctual response to potential danger – this mechanism is important to the survival of all species.

Although many fears are learned, the capacity to fear is part of human nature.  Many studies have found that certain fears are much more common than others.  These fears, such as fear of heights, predatory animals, darkness, etc. are also easier to induce in the laboratory. Because early humans who were quick to fear dangerous situations were more likely to survive and reproduce, certain innate fears developed as a result of natural selection.

People also develop specific fears as a result of learning.  Fear can be acquired through a traumatic event. The area of the brain most involved with the learning of conditioned fears is the amygdala.


The amygdala is located behind the pituitary gland. In the presence of a threatening stimulus the amygdala generates a secretion of hormones that influence fear and aggression. Once response to the fear stimulus commences, the amygdala elicits the release of hormones into the body to put the person into a state of alertness, in which they are ready to move, run, fight, etc.

There are many physiological changes in the body associated with fear. The fight-or-flight response accelerates heart rate, dilates blood vessels, and increases muscle tension and breathing rate. Only after this series of physiological changes, does the consciousness realize an emotion of fear.

After a situation which incites fear occurs, the amygdala and the hippocampus record the event.  The stimulation of the hippocampus will cause the individual to remember many details surrounding the situation. Memory formation in the amygdala is generated by activating the neurons in the region.  Once the person is in safe mode, meaning there are no longer any potential threats surrounding them, the amygdala will send this information to the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) where it is stored for similar future situations.  The storing of memory in the mPFC is known as memory consolidation.

Recent studies show that a person learns to fear regardless of whether they themselves have experienced trauma, or if they have only observed the fear in others. Fear responses in the amygdala can develop in both conditions.

Fear is transferable.

This is partly achieved through mirror neurons.  A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another.  The neuron ‘mirrors’ the behavior of the other, as though the observer himself were acting, not simply watching. Such neurons have been directly observed in primates and other species. Mirror neurons are the neural basis of the human capacity for emotions such as empathy.

Fear and the emotional response to dangerous situations can be triggered through observation and simulation.  Recreational Horror, such as Horror movies, roller coasters, and Haunt Attractions, all simulate danger for the bodily pleasure of the fight-or-flight response in the absence of real threat.

What is Horror?

December 2, 2012

The Horror genre is a vast sprawling landscape, populated by numerous sub-genres and hybridized genre mutants, like the Horror-Comedy, Sci-Fi Horror, and even the Horror Musical.  Some would argue that it is impossible to devise a definition of Horror that encapsulates them all.  What is the difference between a Horror film and a Thriller?  Or a Horror film and a Suspense film?  Does a movie require a monster, or a supernatural element to qualify as Horror? defines Horror as “an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting.”

The Horror genre seeks to elicit this negative emotional reaction from viewers.  Stock elements, such as ghosts, vampires, serial killers, and so forth, may populate the Horror genre, but they do not define it. Movies about the supernatural, and movies with monsters, are not necessarily always horrific.  I believe that the Horror genre is best defined by it’s intent to terrorize the audience.

Although many sequences in non-Horror films are frightening, they do so to advance narrative agendas that have something other than fear at their cores.  Non-Horror films may frighten the audience to tell their stories, but Horror films tell stories to frighten the audience.  In the former, fear is a side effect; in the latter, it is the object of the exercise.


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